Update: Our second group of eager entrepreneurs will graduate from the training program in December. We will be there to congratulate them and to encourage them to go forward with their business plans and with their hopes. We will visit the five businesses that we have already helped to create and enhance and will see the pride on their owners’ faces. We will tell them again that we will always be there to offer help if it’s needed. (Read the full year 2 report here.)
“To help another become self-supporting, by means of a loan… that is the highest level of tzedakah” Maimonides
We learned in Mexico how valuable small loans can be to future entrepreneurs. Building on that successful experience, we decided to apply the principles of micro-finance to the Israeli Ethiopian population, many of whom were not succeeding in the more modern Israeli society. Beginning in 2008, we held a series of meetings in New Jersey and in Israel with members of the Ramat Eliyahu neighborhood in Rishon LeZion, not far from Tel Aviv.
With them and representatives of MetroWest Federation and the Koret Foundation, as well as the local Municipality and Community Center and other groups already working with this population, we designed a program to provide all of the necessary training and loans up to $5000. We went to Israel five times in the first year to become an integral part of the process and to earn the participants’ and our partners’ trust. Thirty-five Ethiopian Israelis men and women graduated that year.
Five of them received loans to open or enhance these businesses: an upscale clothing store, a hair salon, an ethnic Ethiopian store, a grocery and a spices shop.
There was a high level of commitment by the participants who came on time, did the homework, learned their lessons well and saw changes in their personal lives. They responded to the trainers and enjoyed the learning process, even laughing together at times.
At the graduation ceremony, one participant said: “Once there was a man who brought us an idea and now all of us together made it a reality.” One of our partners added: “I thought this would never work. Look at us now – 23 men and 12 women!” All at once, it was no longer so unusual to see an Ethiopian-owned business in Rishon LeZion.
Why was this the first such program to succeed where others had failed with the Ethiopian community? We were a true partnership and every representative saw the program as his or her own. When there was a problem, they pulled together and solved it. When the participants were frustrated or unhappy, they listened to them and acknowledged their concerns.
In Ethiopia, 99% of them were independent and self-employed. Here they are at best workers. We give them back their independence and their dignity. Eitan Paldi, our independent program evaluator, wrote these words: “We believe that Addis Tasfa has significantly helped to advance the Ethiopian community, by the feeling of empowerment and by the many benefits they received from participating, beyond the receiving of loans and business training.”
We are told that there is an old Ethiopian proverb: one filament spun by a spider is weak and easily broken, but a web can capture a tiger. So it is with us as well. Pulling together we can work miracles in the lives of these families.
The second year class is almost completed. Won’t you help us provide the training and the loans for its graduates?
How To Help This Program:
Join with friends and/or business owners to sponsor one participant in Addis Tasfa and help to provide all or part of a loan ($5000).